- Dr Dipshikha Ghosh looks after critical patients in COVID ICU
- Dr Ghosh has treated over 1,000 patients since the COVID-19 pandemic began
- Dr Ghosh has been staying away from her family to protect them from COVID
New Delhi: “I have a few good memories of my elderly patients who fought COVID-19 for weeks and won. At the same time, there are also stories of people who couldn’t make it in the end but left a mark. One such incident happened earlier this month when on a video call, a patient’s son sang a popular Bollywood song ‘Tera mujhse hai pehle ka nata koi’ for his dying mother. It was unexpected; he asked for two minutes of my time and suddenly started singing. All the nurses in my ICU came over to see what was happening and some even started crying at that very moment”, recalls Dipshikha Ghosh, Resident Doctor, Critical Care, Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals Kolkata, in an interview with NDTV.
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On May 12, Dr Ghosh had shared the said heart-wrenching story from her ICU on Twitter and that went viral. While talking to NDTV about working on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Ghosh recollected the incident in-depth and said that she was actually filling up for someone that day.
My shift commenced at 8 AM and I started by taking a round of the ICU. Sanghamitra Chatterjee, one of the patients’ oxygen levels were very low that day. She was already on all kinds of medical support and there was little we could do. In such cases, where we know the patient won’t make it, we ask the family if they want to do a video call with their patient. At around 3:30 PM, I decided to call up Mrs Chatterjee’s family but apparently, our ICU’s mobile phone was dead and I usually avoid using my personal number but I thought if I don’t call now and then something happens, I’ll carry that for life, said Dr Ghosh.
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At first, Mrs Chatterjee’s son Soham Chatterjee asked regular questions about his mother’s health and later sang a song. ‘Tera Mujhse Hai Pehle Ka Nata Koi…’ goes the song, which is from a film about a mother and son who were separated for years and found each other. Soham broke down a couple of times while singing. He would finish one verse and try to sing another but he would keep breaking down, said Dr Ghosh.
After singing, Soham enquired about his mother’s oxygen levels and thanked me for the work. I usually have some sort of reply or something to say to the family but, at that moment, I couldn’t say anything. I was choked. In fact, none of us spoke to each other. After the call, everyone wiped their tears and silently went back to their work. Mrs Chatterjee passed away at around 4 AM. The song has changed for me, it will always be theirs, said Dr Ghosh.
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Here’s The Song A Son Sang For His Dying Mother
Though, Soham, a COVID-19 positive himself, is emotionally not in a position to talk about his loss, in a video post, he did give a message and said, “This song pretty much echoes the kind of love that mom and I used to share. I tried to call her back with all my heart, all my might but I guess you are powerless at the hands of destiny.”
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Working On The Frontlines While Being Away From The Family
32-year-old Dr Ghosh has been on COVID-19 duty for more than a year now and has treated over 1,000 patients. With PPE on her body, she does 24-36 hours of shift every week in COVID ICU. A regular COVID shift is eight hours long but sometimes it gets extended by a couple of hours, depending on the caseload, said Dr Ghosh and added,
More than eight hours is very difficult because you are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) which means you cannot eat, drink or use the washroom. Wearing PPE for 8 hours is very difficult. We have done this before. If your nose or any other body part is itchy, you cannot scratch. I tape my mask for extra safety and when I take it off, often skin also comes out and the mask obviously leaves a mark. Wearing PPE day after day also creates a mental block and you are like oh my god, I have to wear this again.
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However, Dr Ghosh asserted that PPE is something that everyone is struggling with; not just doctors and nurses but also people working on the ground, those involved in bio-medical waste collection and management, ambulance drivers, among others.
They are worse off than us as they are out in the sun with PPE on their bodies, she added.
Dr Ghosh lives with her family – parents and a sister – but since she works on the frontlines and is at a high-risk job, she has isolated herself and moved to an altogether separate floor in her house. Explaining how she meets her family while maintaining COVID protocols, Dr Ghosh said,
It’s usually like when I am coming from work, I stand on the staircase with a mask on my face while my family stands inside the room and we wave at each other. Or when I am outside the house, they stand in the balcony and we interact. We mostly talk over video and phone calls only. In the past year, I have got myself tested for COVID-19 multiple times and it is only after testing negative and not having a shift around that time, I met my family and sat with them to eat.
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COVID-19 Pandemic: Stories Of Despair, Heartbreak And Love
Dr Ghosh said she doesn’t have the time to stop and think about her mental health. However, she agreed that the situation is mentally taxing and often gets very overwhelming. After work, she takes up recreational activities like reading, singing, playing the guitar and the keyboard. She also writes and feeds, treats, rescues and rehabilitates street dogs.
Talking about the mental pressure, Dr Ghosh said,
I have colleagues who talk about taking a sabbatical after all this is over just because of how devastating the situation is. I have seen colleagues, who would never break down for anything, breaking down now. We don’t have an option. The doctors are just doing damage control now.
Sharing some more stories from the COVID ICU, Dr Ghosh remembered an elderly gentleman, a professor, who would wait for Dr Ghosh to come and recognise her through her eyes, voice and walking style. Dr Ghosh and the elderly man would discuss literature, his experiences as a professor, his students and wife. Dr Ghosh would often call the patient’s wife for him and they would discuss recipes, his wife would call and ask, ‘I can’t find this thing at home. Where is it?’
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I remember I had to break somebody’s death to their son and he said, “I had provided a drawing that my son made for his grandfather. Please include that drawing in the body bag that you will pack him in”. The drawing had an elderly gentleman, a young child and balloons. It carried a message ‘get well soon, Dadu’, shared Dr Ghosh.
In a conversation with NDTV, Dr Ghosh remembered another patient who was a doctor himself and was involved in his own treatment. He would read the names of the medicines and say, the following medicine is given for so and so disease so this is what has happened to me. Unfortunately, he succumbed to COVID-19.
There was another old man who would not wear his oxygen mask, not eat anything, and take his medicines. His son wanted to come to the hospital to help us in the treatment process but families are not allowed in COVID ward so he once called and pleaded to his father to listen to the doctors. His son once wrote him a letter and since the patient was out of breath, I read it out to him and later informed his son that ‘right now your father is sleeping. He will call you.’ I don’t think that patient also made it, said Dr Ghosh.
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The Second Wave Of The COVID-19 Pandemic: Expert Speak
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, experts knew little about the novel infectious disease and the treatment. In the first wave of the pandemic, the COVID-19 majorly affected older people and those with comorbidities. However, now, it’s sparing no one.
Today, we have patients who belong to a much younger age group. People as young as 29-year-old, seemingly healthy individuals are not responding to the standard treatment or requiring expensive treatment, said Dr Ghosh.
To fight the second wave of the pandemic, Dr Ghosh urges everyone to understand the concept of public health which includes wearing a mask and getting vaccinated. She said,
For a virus that is infecting and killing so fast and so mercilessly, people need to feel that it is their responsibility towards everybody else to take the vaccine or at least mask up appropriately. You will have your entire life to blame whoever you want to for this situation but at least get through this phase of your life, she said.
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.